By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
In these days we experience the love of Christmas, which gradually draws us to the source of Christian joy. We are called to foster this joy among our relatives, friends and neighbors. It is important that we do not let ourselves be robbed of this joy.
Christmas is also accompanied by tears. The Evangelists did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive. They relate the birth of the Son of God as an event full of tragedy and grief. Quoting the prophet Jeremiah, Matthew presents it in the bluntest way: “A voice is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children” (2,18). It is the sobbing of mothers mourning the death of their children in the face of Herod’s thirst for power. Today too, we hear this touching cry of pain, which we neither desire to ignore or to silence. In our world we continue to hear the lamentation of so many mothers, for the death of their children, their innocent children.
To contemplate the manger also means to contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be open to the pain of our neighbors, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that a sad chapter in history is still being written today. Can we truly experience Christian joy if we turn our backs on these realities? Can Christian joy even exist if we ignore the cry of our brothers and sisters, the cry of the children?
St. Joseph faced the atrocious crimes that were taking place. St. Joseph, the model of an obedient and loyal man, was capable of recognizing God’s voice and the mission entrusted to him by the Father. Because he was able to hear God’s voice, and was docile to His will, Joseph became more conscious of what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.
The same thing is asked of us today: to be attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and therefore more sensitive to what is happening all around us. Today, with St. Joseph as our model, we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand. The courage to guard this joy from the predators of our time, who devour the innocence of our children. Innocence robbed from them by the oppression of illegal slave labor, prostitution and exploitation. Thousands of our children have fallen into the hands of gangs, criminal organizations and merchants of death. We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church, our Mother, who weeps for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters. Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, let us renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect the lives of our children in every way, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, we support, clearly and faithfully, zero tolerance.
Christian joy does not arise on the fringes of reality, by ignoring it or acting as if it did not exist. Christian joy is born from a call to embrace and protect human life, especially that of the holy innocents of our own day. Christmas is a time that challenges us to protect life, to help it be born and grow. It is a time that challenges us to find new courage. The courage that generates ways capable of acknowledging the reality that many of our children are experiencing today, and working to ensure them the bare minimum needed so that their dignity as God’s children will not only be respected but, above all, defended.
Let us not allow them to be robbed of joy. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of joy, but guard it and nourish its growth.
Cuddalore – On November 24th the Silver Jubilee of the Guanellian presence in India and Priestly Golden jubilee of Fr. Joe started with decorations, rangoli, songs, and programs at St. Joseph’s Seminary. After the conclusion of the Provincial Chapter the celebration began with Holy Mass presided over by Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, as thanksgiving to God for all that we received in these years of mission, years of grace and fraternal love among us and with all the people he has met. After Mass everyone gathered in the auditorium where Fr. Joe cut and served the anniversary cake. A cultural program dedicated to the Golden Jubilarian was performed and Fr. Soosai Rathinam recounted the history of St. Joseph’s Seminary and the pioneers to India. The celebration ended with the thanksgiving note of Fr. Visuwasam, Superior of the Cuddalore community.
Legazpi – The Harong Kan Sagrada Familia community welcomed Fr. Charlton Viray for a visit November 6th–8th. During his visit, he offered a class for all the novices entitled, “Prayer with the Bible” teaching them to use this kind of prayer in their own spiritual life. He said, “once, one gets to know and apply this prayer in their spiritual life, one may discover their own self and may realize their own self with the painfulness of spirit which self needs to accept it in order to grow.” With this type of prayer, we no longer pray alone, but we listen, understand and meet Jesus in our hearts. Prayer becomes a personal dialogue with Jesus and we discover “who is Jesus in my life?” In seeking him in others: neighbors, poor, needy, we also see him in our own hearts, for He is waiting for us there. Getting to know Him is getting to know ourselves.
Pondicherry – The Divine Providence Province’s Fourth Provincial Chapter began as the chapter fathers gathered at Prsahanth Vanam on November 20th. Fr. Alphonso Crippa, Superior General, enlightened the confreres with inspiring thoughts during his recollection talk. He highlighted three important points: Wisdom of God, Guanellian Simplicity and Mission. He underlined the fact that we are gathered here not merely just to make some governing proposals or administrative rules, but to seek what the Lord wants from us. He stressed the importance of dialogue and fraternity. The chapter continued until the evening of the 24th. The chapter fathers went to St. Joseph’s Seminary for the Silver Jubilee of their presence in India and Golden Jubilee celebration of Fr. Joe.
Legazpi – “From purgatory, which is painful and sorrowful, the crying voices of the souls resound in great sorrow, with the belief that mother Mary will have pity on those who cry for help.”
The holy souls not only wait for Mother Mary, they also wait for the prayers of their own family, their beloved ones. Unfortunately, many are forgotten by their own families, forgotten by this world. They can no longer do anything for themselves in order to get back to God, Who is the greatest desire of all souls. They suffer the great fire which burns in their hearts day after day. The only hope that they have is the Church Militant who journey together in this world to pray for them and to do acts of charity for them. We must always remember the holy souls, what they had done for us while they were in this world. After their passing from this life, they must not be forgotten but must be remembered everyday of our lives. In November especially, the novices went to many different cemeteries to visit the holy souls and to pray for them according to the teachings of the church.
Legazpi – To commemorate the feast day of St. Louis Guanella, the Servants of Charity went on a pilgrimage to Naga City October 20th for all who had helped organize “Dinner for a Cause”. This trip was not only for relaxation, but also to discover new places and to go to the source of faith: Basilica Minore, the church dedicated to Our Lady of Penafrancia Patroness of Bicolandia. Even though everyone was tired they were very happy for visiting this church and bringing many of our confidences in prayer before Our Lady. Their hope was renewed and peace deepened in the bottom of their hearts, strengthening them to face the reality of daily life. May our Lady of Penafrancia pray for all of us and bring us to her son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Kumbakonam – Guanella Nagar Parish joyfully celebrated the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary at Jebamalaipuram. This substation has more than 30 Catholic families and is the only church dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary in the Kumbakonam Diocese. The feast began on October 5th with a flag hoisting by Rev. Fr. K. Arockia Samy, Chancellor & Minister. Then he celebrated Holy Mass during which he gave an inspiring homily on Mother Mary and the importance of reciting the Rosary. The celebration continued on October 6th when Fr. Rex Alex Silvester, Vice Rector of Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Kumbakonam, blessed the car and the faithful prayed the Rosary while processing through the streets of Jebamalaipuram. He also celebrated Mass and preached the homily. On October 7th Fr. Ansel Antony CMF, Superior of Claret Illam, Kumbakonam, celebrated the feast day Mass and addressed current problems of the world in his homily. He also gave two solutions; first it is possible by the Word of God and second by the recitation of the Holy Rosary. Many faithful attended the Holy Mass and the flag was lowered which brought the celebration to an end.
When my father died, I cried, I suffered and I missed him. But soon I moved on, came back to the States and my usual work. But when my mother died I had a different reaction. My mother, lying in a darkened room, was close to death. But as she reached for my hand and looked at me intently, she was fully aware that her youngest son, the one who left her many years ago, was at her side. She was ready to begin her journey home to God. The woman who had given me birth, nurtured me, taught me how to pray and read, was gone. I was fifty-five years old, but I felt orphaned. We may live to old age but we will always be a child in relation to our parents. Seldom, as adults, are we ready for a parent’s death. We may be busy building our careers, raising our families, traveling or seeking to settle down. Whatever the circumstances, it is virtually impossible to prepare ourselves emotionally for the loss.
Ironically, our society shows very little understanding about the unique pain of losing a mother or a father. However, in my heart I felt that I have every reason to grieve. My mother’s death left me with a sense of abandonment and even panic that caught me by surprise.
Well meaning friends and others tried to console me by saying, “Your mother lived a long, full life, she was suffering so much; surely it’s a blessing.” But those phrases ring hollow: my dear mother lies in the casket.
I felt that I had every reason to grieve but I felt the need to move on and get out of the vacuum in which I was caught. Finally, I started to cry and talk with other relatives and friends. I visited the cemetery every day and imagined my mother talking to my father and other relatives. She was in a great place and in good, heavenly company. Calling aloud many times the word “Mom” was remarkably consoling and healing.
But despite our tears and sense of loneliness, we need to move to center stage to leave our mark in the world. But we do not move forward alone. We bring along with us a rich store of treasures from our childhood on; hard lessons learned and principles, fond and painful memories, family celebrations and traditions. We bring who we are, thanks to the love, nurturing and guidance we received in our formative years from the parents whose presence we now miss.
I was never able to assure my mother that I would accompany her on the final leg of her journey home. But as I continue the second half of my life’s journey, I can feel the power of her presence. She is my Mother!
How is Fr. Guanella connected with the missions? He never went to any mission country as a missionary does. Since his years in the Como Seminary, he had a soft spot, a strong desire to join PIME, and go to India or China. He even asked his Bishop to have the opportunity to fulfill his dream, but he was denied. “Your India will be here at home”, his Bishop replied. His strong missionary desire was passed on to his Religious, “The whole world is your homeland”. The first mission territory he served was Switzerland, filled with many Protestants, which was just outside of his own native place. There, he sent his priests to take care of the Italian immigrants plus the few native Catholics. A small step, but a step that became a big one when, later on, his Religious crossed both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans to bring Catholic and non-Catholic alike, the message of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd and Good Samaritan, to His creatures in need of faith, hope and love.
Recently his Religious even touched the ‘Solomon Islands’ in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia are now the homeland of a great number of Servants of Charity and Daughters of St. Mary of Providence. They are the fulfillment of Fr. Guanella’s dream, bringing “Bread and the Lord, to those who need them, material bread and spiritual bread.
Was Fr. Guanella a missionary? A resounding “YES” is his presence in 24 nations through his spiritual children, religious and laity. He wrote, “We are Servants of Charity, because the Charity of Jesus Christ has called us. Let us practice with fervor the works of mercy, and we will obtain the mercy of the Lord! The poor are our favored ones. They are our masters. We must work and suffer for them. Is it not what Jesus, the Divine Missionary, has done for us by His mission of Salvation?
As we celebrate 102 years since the heavenly birth of our Holy Founder, let us resolve to re-incarnate his presence, vision and mission contextually. Thus we become a border-crossing person: across cultures, religions, genders, race!
For the first time in my life, I did not carry any books to read on my journey. There were works to be completed as I was going to visit different communities. On the way back home, I was stuck! So many hours of travel…and no company to talk to, no book to read, no Ipod to listen to! How long to do the self-talk! My mind was driving me crazy…with an uncontrolled flood of unnecessary and wasteful thoughts. I was strongly regretting my decision of not carrying any books to pass the time.
In the meantime, a voice from within whispered, “You are fed up with hearing the sounds…why don’t you listen to the SILENCE for a change? Enough watching the sights and focusing on the invisible SPACE between!” And behold…a new world began to emerge altogether! The deeper I dived, the stronger it pulled me in. My mind had gone blank! And here in this space, I was merging into the heart of the cosmos…no more me-thou, but one! The experience of being complete…being fulfilled…being peaceful…and being filled with bliss! Indeed it was causeless happiness at an experiential level! Here I found ‘the missing rib’…the single solution to all the problems, whatsoever! And then, the rest of the journey was in complete grace!
In the global village which we live in today all distance is set at zero. But at the same time freedom is the main concept we have to understand well. It is the absence of undue restriction and an opportunity to exercise one’s rights and powers. It may refer to freedom of conscience, religion, education, speech and political freedom.
The Emmy Award-winning Hispanic actor, Ricardo Montalban of the last century, affirms the natural affinity between freedom and discipline. He says, “Only through self-discipline can we achieve true freedom”. And he uses the analogy of water and a cup: “pour water into a cup, and you can drink. Without the cup, the water would splash all over. The cup is discipline.” Freedom is not the right to do as a person pleases, but the liberty to do as he ought. Freedom is best when it is reasonably restrained and rationally made use of.
As we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Assumption, she gives us the message of total liberation through her “Magnificat” both on a personal as well social level. As St. Ambrose once said in referring to this wonderful prayer, “Let Mary’s soul be in us to glorify the Lord; let her spirit be in us that we may rejoice in God our Savior.”
Fr. Soosai Rathinam